Category Archives: The Moon

Why Do People Say the Moon is Made of Green Cheese?

Green Moon

As far as I know none of the Apollo missions included bringing a cheese grater…

So this isn’t about a scientific discovery by any means, but I did do a little bit of online research to discern the origin of the old expression that the Moon is “made of green cheese.” We’ve all heard it, and though I’m pretty sure that nobody has ever actually taken it as a fact (although when it concerns the Moon there never seems to be any shortage of crazy theories) I had to wonder just where it came from.

As it turns out, it’s the curiously uncanny remnant of a bit of snark that dates back to at least the 16th century — long before Apollo, spectroscopy, or even the first telescope.

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What Would it Take to Knock the Moon Out of Orbit?


Even an impact by an object the size of Ceres wouldn’t destroy the Moon (Image: NASA)

Whenever there’s news of an asteroid expected to pass closely by Earth (like this one did on Halloween 2015) at least one person will typically ask “what if it hit the Moon?” (as if that’s a scenario that somehow all of the astronomers around the world who specialize in near-Earth asteroids failed to take into consideration.) I assume the expected answer would be that such an impact would offset our Moon’s oh-so-delicate position in Earth orbit and send it tumbling inwards toward an inevitable and catastrophic collision with our planet, or possibly shatter it apart completely.

As it turns out the Moon is a lot tougher than many people think. (Maybe they’d just watched too many Saturday morning cartoons.)

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Tons of Unprocessed Apollo Mission Photos Are Now Just a Click Away

High-resolution scans of Apollo mission photos are now available on Flickr

High-resolution scans of Apollo mission photos are now available on Flickr

This has made quite a splash across the internet over the past several weeks, and for good reason: the Project Apollo Archive is now on Flickr, giving anyone and everyone point-and-click access to some of the best scans of original Apollo mission photographs that have been made to date. Really, this is something you can get yourself wonderfully lost in (and I speak from personal experience!)

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Supermoon Eclipse 2015

Sept. 27, 2015 "Supermoon" eclipse from the RI State House (© Jason Major)

Sept. 27, 2015 “Supermoon” eclipse from the RI State House (© Jason Major)

Last night a large part of the world’s population was treated to a relatively rare variety of a not-so-rare night sky spectacle: a total lunar eclipse that happened to coincide with the closest perigee Moon (aka “supermoon”) of the year. The last time these scenarios lined up this way was in 1982, and it won’t occur exactly like that again until 2033. While some parts of the U.S. were clouded out (Los Angeles and Las Vegas included, oddly enough) it was a clear night here in Rhode Island and I took the opportunity to capture some photos of the eclipse from the State House lawn, where I could include the iconic statue of the “Independent Man” atop the capitol’s neoclassical dome.

See some photos of the eclipse from around the world on NASA’s Flickr album here, and check out a couple more of my photos below:

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Get Ready For The First Total Supermoon Eclipse in 33 Years

The Moon going into eclipse on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, 2010. © Jason Major

The Moon going into eclipse on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, 2010. © Jason Major

It’s coming — on September 27 there will be a total lunar eclipse, the entirety of which will be visible across much of the western hemisphere! During total lunar eclipses the Moon passes through the shadow of Earth cast by the Sun, and is colored by dusky blue, purple, and crimson light as its normally harsh glare is briefly reduced to nearly nothing before the process reverses. It’s a beautiful cosmic event to behold and this year it’s an extra special treat — not only will the Moon be totally eclipsed but it will also be at perigee, the closest point to Earth along its 27.3-day-long orbit. These days when the Moon is full at perigee it gets called a “supermoon”, and on Sept. 27 it will be totally eclipsed during the closest supermoon of the entire year. That hasn’t happened since 1982, when The Clash was Rocking the Casbah, times were fast at Ridgemont High, and virtually no one knew what an Ewok was. (Yes, kids, it’s true.)

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The Moon is Surrounded by Neon

Illustration of NASA's LADEE spacecraft, which has already impacted the Moon's surface (NASA/GSFC)

Illustration of NASA’s LADEE spacecraft, which has already impacted the Moon’s surface (NASA/Dana Berry)

Finally, we have proof of the moon’s “noble” heritage! Measurements from NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, aka LADEE, have confirmed the long-suspected presence of neon in its exosphere (neon is one of the noble gases — see what I did there?) along with isotopes of argon and helium. The relative concentrations of each of these elements also appears to depend on the time of day, which, on the Moon, lasts 29.5 Earth-days long.

Read the rest of my article on Discovery News here.


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